LibriVox recording of The Diary of a Superfluous Man, by Ivan Turgenev. Read by Martin Geeson.
Turgenev's shy hero, Tchulkaturin, is a representative example of a Russian archetype - the "superfluous man", a sort of Hamlet not necessarily dignified with the title Prince: an individual of comfortable means leading a dreary existence, without purpose and led on by events which may, as in this story, engulf him. The novella takes the form of a diary started by Tchulkaturin in the shock of being diagnosed as having a terminal illness. The journal entries cover a period of two weeks, leading to his death. Tchulkaturin quickly homes in on the only significant event in his life - an unreciprocated falling-in-love leading haphazardly to a non-fatal duel that leaves him desolated and fully conscious of the futility of his inactive existence.(Summary by Martin Geeson)
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This short novel plumbs to the core the human experience. We watch the protagonist delude himself, defeat himself and isolate himself, and can recognize those tendencies within ourselves. Yet there is a redemptive quality to the narrator's unflinchingly honest appraisal of his own life. I wept at the end of the reading, something I rarely do.
Beautifully and movingly read. Thank you so much.
September 27, 2009 Subject:
An excellent reading and an excellent short piece of fiction
Tchulkaturin, the hero of Ivan Turgenev’s 1850 work, The Diary of a Superfluous Man, has just two weeks to live. Facing the prospect of his own mortality, Tchulkaturin decides to take stock of his feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about life and the world around him. He realizes that his contributions to society are few—he has led an indolent life without much purpose, a man “superfluous” to the world. Yet, the realizations the young man comes to over the course of his writings prove both revelatory and moving. Here is an emotional tour-de-force about the universal truths that define all lives, however grand or humble; a more honest testament to the human condition you are unlikely to find.
Many thanks to Martin Geeson. His reading of Turgenev's novella is excellent and I enjoyed it throughly. Highly recommended!
July 24, 2009 Subject:
The Diary of a Superfluous Man
The Diary of a Superfluous Man (1850) is about a "Superfluous Man", a recurring Russian literary meme about upper class nihilistic men who resort to gambling, dueling and women to give meaning to an otherwise disconnected and alienated existence. The story starts of slow but eventually take on a strong narrative direction dealing with "love" lost. Some great imagery and insights on the human condition. I think the 19thC Russian "Superfluous Man" archetypal character is not well known to most English readers, but this is a good introduction (see Wikipedia for other stories), and I believe the origin of the term. Alexsandr Kuprin's masterpiece The Duel (1905) is another Superfluous Man story.
Martin Geeson's passionate narration for LibriVox deserves special attention. It's as good or better than professional and obviously a labor of love. The sort of antique sound quality I believe was done on purpose in-line with the novella's first person diary voice, and the occasional sound of an old typewriter adds to the atmosphere. I'm now a fan of Geeson and would listen to anything he narrated in the future.